Title: A Clockwork Christmas
Authors: Stacy Gail, PG Forte, Jenny Schwartz, JK Coi
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: December 5, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
I love reading steampunk novels, so when I saw this anthology of Christmas themed steampunk novellas for review on NetGalley, I couldn’t wait to read it. When I finally sat down to write this review, I learned that each novella is also available for individual sale, which is a really nice feature. Kudos to Carina Press for offering this option - I’d love to see more publishers offer stories in anthologies that way! That said, I felt that this anthology was a really solid collection, and I liked each of the novellas, which is unusual.
Stacy Gail’s Crime Wave in a Corset
The decision to place this novella first in the collection was excellent. Crime Wave in a Corset draws the reader in from the beginning, and you’ll soon find yourself rooting for the dubious heroine, Cornelia Peabody, thief. Cornelia’s fought her way from the streets and invents all sorts of clever contraptions to aid her robbing organizations such as the local university. Unfortunately, one of her more successful jobs, stealing a Fabergé egg, has come back to haunt her.
Roderick Coddington (Coddington is NOT the best last name for a hero, imo) ambushes Cornelia in her home. That Fabergé egg belonged to his beloved Beth, who died shortly after its disappearance. He attaches a deadly timepiece to Cornelia’s wrist, and if she can’t recover the egg in a week, the timepiece will kill her.
Ms. Gail did a great job of this enemies-turned-lovers novella. At first Roderick comes across as unlikeable, even though he’s not the villain , but Cornelia is a very likeable character, and you’ll enjoy watching the two fall in love. 4 out of 5
PG Forte’s This Winter Heart
Ophelia Leonides finds herself destitute after her father’s death and forced to return to the husband who abandoned her in order to support their son, Arthur. Her husband, Dario, is part of a powerful family in the Republic of New Texacali after the Civil War, and is not at all inclined to help his estranged wife. Since he believed her to be barren, he’s even less likely to accept that Arthur’s his son, but the resemblance is undeniable. Can the marriage be saved, or will Dario refuse to accept his wife for what she is – a women with a heart and feelings.
I love reunion romances, so this was a winner for me. Once Ophelia’s dark secret is revealed, it’s very easy to see why Dario would have rejected her. The only problem I had with the novella has to do with Ophelia’s secret, which is only explained in a very vague sort of way. Steampunk technology doesn’t have to be completely explained for me (in fact, I’d prefer that it not be), but I was fairly puzzled over how Ophelia’s father had pulled off what he had. 4 out of 5
Jenny Schwartz’s Wanted: One Scoundrel
This novella doesn’t feature steampunk technology as much as the others, but I found it to be a romantic read. Esme Smith is the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Australia, and she’s an ardent suffragette. Unfortunately, she’s not able to enter the men’s clubs where much of the political debate takes place, so she decides to hire a scoundrel to espouse her views where she cannot. Her uncle introduces her to American Jed Reeve, an inventor, and he’s so intrigued by the beauty that he agrees to her scheme without letting her know that she’s mistaken about his lack of funds.
Ms. Schwartz’s novella reads more like a traditional historical romance with a few steampunk elements, but it’s delightful none the less. The more Jed learns about Esme, the more he admires her intelligence and spirit, and I enjoyed the Australian setting, and Esme is a suffragette we could all root for. 4 out of 5
JK Coi’s Far from Broken
This was darkest contribution to the collection, because the steampunk elements are used to modify injured characters, almost like a member of the Borg from Star Trek. This isn’t necessarily a new element of steampunk – I love Meljean Brook’s Iron Duke series, and many of the characters in that series have prosthetics – but I found this novella to be somewhat disturbing because of the hero’s initial treatment of his wife.
Coronel Jasper Carlisle is a spy, married to prima ballerina Calliope (Callie). While he’s away from home, his wife is tortured by his enemies, and Carlisle spirits his injured wife to a military hospital, where she’s fitted with a prosthetic eye, hand, and legs. What bothered me the most about this story is that the Coronel leaves his wife alone in the hospital for the four months of her recovery, only returning later in an attempt to salvage their marriage. I liked Callie’s character, and the world building was fascinating, but I felt like Callie should have used her new iron legs to punt her husband across the room for his abandonment, and even with the romantic resolution I was a little miffed at Carlisle. 3.5 out of 5